Sunday, March 11, 2012

Waiting on kindergarten?

Yesterday I was in line behind a few moms discussing whether or not to hold their August/September babies back a year before starting kindergarten. As a kindergarten teacher, and someone with a September baby this is a topic I have an opinion on. However, I quickly learned that there is a breed of mother I have not met yet. At my school I do not come into contact with the moms I met yesterday. The moms at my school love their children but are stressed with working, feeding their kids, managing to live in a small apartment with 3 other families, and citizenship issues. The moms I met yesterday were worried about...  I'm not sure what. Worried about some unspeakable, unimaginable thing that may come eat their child if they make the wrong decision. These were moms who dropped their children's PALS scores like they were magic lottery numbers. Moms who clearly felt that this decision was going to give their children the magical boost they needed to get into Ivy League schools. They loved their kids and just want the absolute best for them, and I'm pretty sure if I hang around them enough I'll morph into one of them as well. Yet the whole conversation scared me and left me feeling like I'm just not mom-enough. It's clearly a different world than I live in.

I do however have an opinion on when my daughter will start kindergarten, and since this is my personal blog I feel I can share it. It is my opinion for my daughter and not my opinion for all kids.

We plan to hold Baby Lipstick back and she'll start kindergarten when she's 6. This could change- she could be brilliant and may be bored with another year of preschool- she could be socially advanced and ready to go to kindergarten- we could get tired of paying for daycare (the most likely scenario). But right now we plan on giving her another year and it has nothing to do with academics, her future PALs scores, SAT scores, or college chances.

When I started teaching 9 years ago I was a first grade classroom teacher. When I switched to special education I went down to kindergarten and over the years I've noticed something- what we are teaching in kindergarten is the exact same curriculum we use to teach in first grade. Same lessons, same expectations, one year earlier. I use to watch first graders struggle to count sets of mixed change and now we're expected to ask kindergartners to do it? Play time has shortened, nap time is obsolete, and kindergarten has frankly become the new first grade. It's intense. So for starters I want to give my daughter another year of being a kid. Of playing and pretending and not worrying about counting mixed change and decoding words and writing in the lines. It gives her another year before she hits standardized testing in third grade. I'm not waiting on this to make sure she'll do better on the test a year later- I just don't want her to have to deal with it until she has to.

Then there is middle school. I don't want her to be the youngest in a bunch of mean girls. I want her to be with the mean girls when she too is a mean girl. No need to rush into that social pressure when she still wants to play with dolls and everyone else around her is interested in boys.

I don't need all her friends driving before she does- she can be the first to get her license- not the last. That way if she's out I know the driving skills of the teenager behind the wheel (if we ever let her learn to drive). When she turns 21 she can be the first so there is no one to binge drink with (silly Mom, there is always someone to binge drink with).

Last year partner-in-crime and I had a very old kindergarten class. The majority of the boys had October and November birthdays. They were calm, and sweet, and silly and ready to learn. It was a kind of maturity we hadn't seen in kindergarten before. They were not overly brilliant or child prodigies but they were mentally ready to handle the first grade concepts we were shoving down their throats. They were ready to sit on the rug for longer periods of time and were ready to socially handle the pressures of this new, demanding kindergarten.

I say all this now and I'm sure my opinion will change as we get closer to Baby Lipstick's kindergarten years. If I ever quote her PALs scores or mention her future SAT scores please someone hit me over the head with a brick. I just want her to enjoy childhood- in whatever form that takes.

1 comment:

herding.cats said...

First, let me say, I love your blog. I'm a first grade teacher in a school similar to yours, and I love reading stories of someone who totally "gets" my job!

My daughter is a September birthday, too. When she was 4, I had someone say, "You're holding her back, right? Because that way she'll be older and be better at sports in high school." Ummm, I don't think that's the criterion I'll be using for this decision. We decided to start her in kinder at 4--she was tall, verbal, reading, and obviously bored in preschool. It's worked out really well (although now we're looking at our 17 year old baby heading to college next year...)

That was the right decision for our family. You'll make the right decision for yours. Your blog is a testament to looking at the child, the whole child, and meeting them where they are so you can figure out where they need to go. Thanks for sharing the journey!